Parshas Titzave 5758


The Importance of Seeking and Following Guidance on a Spiritual Journey

"And you should command the Children of Israel, to bring pure olive oil, crushed especially for lighting, in order to keep an eternal light burning." (Ex. 27:20)

R' Yaacov Yosef of Polnoye, zt'l, known by Chassidim as the "Toldos", asked the following question. We know that the commandments of the Torah are eternal, and have relevance for every time and generation. If so, without a Mishkan, how can we fulfill the mitzvoh of lighting the Menorah with pure olive oil today? Let's examine the verse.

"And you should command. . .", the word to command is related to the word "Tzaftzah", to join together.

". . to the children of Israel. . .", refers to the Tzaddik, to whom the hearts of Israel cleave in order to accept his teachings and guidance.

". . .pure olive. . .", refers to the wisdom of the Torah which is called "oil".

". . . in order to keep an eternal light burning . . .", by means of Israel cleaving to the way of the Tzaddik and his Torah teachings, each Jew will be able to kindle in himself an eternal light that will constantly strive upwards. In this way, what is written in Proverbs (20:27), will be actualized, "The soul of man is the candle of Hashem".


How to Live with Hardship

"And you should command the Children of Israel, to bring pure olive oil, crushed especially for lighting, in order to keep an eternal light burning." (Ex. 27:20)

On this verse the classic Torah commentator Rashi, says, "pure olive oil, crushed especially for lighting..., and not for the meal offering." (Olive oil was used for both lighting the Menorah and for the Meal offering. While the olive oil for the Menorah was 'pure olive oil, crushed especially for lighting', the oil for the meal offerings was of a lesser quality.)

R' Menachem Mendel of Riminov finds a deeper meaning in the comment of Rashi. When a person is "crushed" by life's circumstances and is beset by suffering, he must endeavor not to give in, but to remain joyous in his service of Hashem. "Menachos", the meal offerings, also means rest. This then is the meaning of "crushed especially for lighting", to become radiant and purified through suffering, "and not for the meal offering", not to rest, or to give up.


THE AHAVAS YISRAEL OF HASHEM

"You shall engrave the names of six (tribes) on one (onyx) stone and the names of the other six on the second stone. . . And you shall place the (Shoham-onyx) stones on the shoulder straps of the Ephod, remembrance stones for the Children of Israel. Aharon shall carry their names before Hashem on his shoulders as a remembrance." (Exodus 28:10,12)

The love which Hashem has for the Jewish people is awesome and sublime. Even if all the trees of the forest were quills, it would be inadequate to properly describe the awesome nature of this love. The prophet declared, "Listen to me House of Jacob, and the remnant of the House of Israel, those who are been carried (by me) since birth and supported since leaving the womb. Until you grow old I will be the same, when you turn gray, it is I who will carry (you). I was the Maker and I will be the Bearer; I will carry and rescue you." (Isaiah 46:3)

"I am Hashem who loves justice." (Isaiah 61:8) Nevertheless His love for the children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov is even greater than his love of Justice. Would that Hashem be forced to choose between His love for Justice and His love for Israel, like a father who cares for his offspring; His love for Israel would prevail. (Zohar III, 99b)

If only the those who transgress Hashem's word knew how deep is His love for them and how much he longs to be close to them, they would roar like lions, pick up their hems, and run to Hashem with all their strength to return to Him to come close to Him and become attached to Him. (Zohar II, 5b)

In light of the above, R' Moshe Kobriner (Toras Avos p.173), explained the meaning of the blessing just before the Shema in the Shacharis prayer. "Blessed are You Hashem who chooses His people Israel with love." There are many things that Hashem loves. "I am Hashem who loves justice." (Isaiah 61:8) "Hashem loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Yaacov." (Psalms 87:2) "There are three whom Hashem loves, the one who controls his anger, the one who doesn't become drunk and the one who foregoes his own honor." (Talmud Pesachim 113b) Nevertheless, from among all the loves that Hashem has, says R' Moshe, he "chooses His people Israel with love". When it comes to love, Hashem prefers the love of Israel over all his other loves.

This idea is also found in our Parsha. All of the work in the Mishkan and the wearing of the Priestly vestments was pressed upon Aharon and his sons alone; to the exclusion of the rest of the people. And it is only natural. When one is chosen by the King to fulfill a position of honor or responsibility, it shows that he enjoys a special relationship and is more beloved by the King than others.

Therefore, it would be logical to think, that because Aharon and his sons were exclusively entrusted with the Priesthood, that the rest of Klal Yisrael was in disfavor with Hashem (especially after the Incident of the Golden Calf). In fact the opposite is true; Klal Yisrael is the chosen beloved of Hashem.

"You shall engrave the names of six (tribes) on one (onyx) stone and the names of the other six on the second stone. . . And you shall place the (Shoham-onyx) stones on the shoulder straps of the Ephod, remembrance stones for the Children of Israel. Aharon shall carry their names before Hashem on his shoulders as a remembrance." (Exodus 28:10,12)

The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved on the Shoham/Onyx stones for a remembrance. R' Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi asks, (Parshas Titzave, d"h Nasso), "Whenever we mention the idea of remembrance in a positive vein, we are speaking of the Avos and not the tribes, as it is written, 'I remembered my bris with Avraham, with Yitzchok and with Yaacov, and I will also remember the land.' (Vayikra 26:42) What is special about the Priestly garments they must carry a remembrance of the twelve tribes of Israel?"

He answered, "Don't think that because Aharon and his sons were chosen from amongst all the other tribes to minister to Hashem as priests and teachers, that only they are beloved and special. No! When Aharon goes before Hashem, he bears the names of the rest of the nation so that when Hashem sees it, he will remember them continuously and recall their righteousness." (see Rashi on v. 12).

Even after the inauguration ceremony of the tribe Levi into their divine service (Parshas Baha'aloscha, Numbers 8:6-19), Hashem makes sure to tell us that his love for the rest of Israel had in no way abated.

"I have chosen the Levi'im from amongst B'nai Yisrael to do the Avodah of B'nai Yisrael in the Tent of Meeting, and to atone for B'nai Yisrael that there should not be in B'nai Yisrael a plague when B'nai Yisrael approaches the Holy Place." (Numbers 8:19)

Rashi points out the verse states "B'nai Yisrael" five times to show how beloved they are. The Kedushas Levi (Parshas Baha'aloscha, d"h V'esnah), takes up Rashi's idea. Just like in Parshas Titzave, Hashem again makes sure to indicate his great love for Yisrael after glorifying the tribe of Levi. We shouldn't make a mistake to think that Klal Yisrael is disfavored in the aftermath of the rise of Levi. Levi was especially chosen, but only in order to make an atonement for Klal Yisrael!

Hashem constantly favors us with His special love. "Even in the midst of their impurity I dwell with them." (Vayikra 16:16) The Divine Presence places itself close at hand, always available to any Jew who will seek it out.


DIVINE DESIRE

In Parshas Terumah, Moshe Rabbenu had trouble understanding how to make the Menorah. At first Hashem showed him a flaming model, but still it was difficult for him to understanding how it should be made. So Hashem told him to take the lump of gold and throw it into the smelter's fire. Then the Menorah miraculously appeared, completed in every detail.

The Sfas Emes asked, "Why did Hashem first show Moshe a fiery model of the Menorah? Didn't He know that Moshe still would not understand?

In all matters of Avodas Hashem says, the Sfas Emes, one needs to understand a basic principle. It is impossible for a person to alone complete what all that is incumbent upon him. What is required is absolute determination to do what is within his knowledge and ability to do. If he is willing to give maximum effort to fulfill the will of Hashem, then divine assistance will do the rest. Hashem wanted Moshe to give the maximum in his desire to make the Menorah according to the will of Hashem. He showed him the model of the Menorah in fire and that kindled in Moshe a great desire to complete the job. That desire made possible the Menorah which emerged completed from the fire. That Menorah was a product of Moshe's desire to do the will of Hashem.

How is it possible for one to achieve a strong desire to do the Razton (will) of Hashem? One way is through tales of the Tzadikkim. Chassidim have always placed a great emphasis on relating tales of ways of the Tzadikkim of previous generation in order to inspire and encourage themselves in Avodas Hashem. (See the Nishmas Chayim Chassidic Stories Page for one collection of Chassidic stories.)

It is a common saying among Chassidim, that telling over a story about the Baal ShemTov on Motzaei Shabbos at the Seudos Maleve Malka, is an auspicious practice for insuring a good livelihood. And telling over a story about the Holy Brothers, R' Zusia and R' Elimelech, is an auspicious practice for those wishing to be blessed with children or with increasing their fear of heaven respectively.

Concerning this custom, R' Yisroel of Ruzhin said that is true but:

  1. Not only stories about those Tzadikkim
  2. Not only on Motzaei Shabbos
  3. Not only for those things

Rather, telling tales of any Tzadikkim, at any time and for any purpose is an auspicious and recommended practice.

R' Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, commenting once on how he had risen to the spiritual heights he had reached, said, "When I was a youngster, my teacher used to tell many, many stories of the of previous generations. He told the stories, and I listened. I endeavored to let those stories pierce deep into my heart where they were able to make an indelible impression; and impression which influences me no less, even many years later.


FROM INSPIRATION TO ACTION

R' Eliezer Lippa was a simple but devout Jew who lived in the town of Taranow in Galicia. He was not well versed and didn't know the meaning of most of his daily prayers, but he always davened with the minyan and he was scrupulous to say Amen, after every blessing of the Chazzan, and to respond Amen, Yehey Shemi Rabboh in the Kaddish, and to respond to the Borchu. He never conversed about worldly matters in the Shul and he accorded the sages and Rabbi their due honor.

R' Eliezer Lippa was a laborer who knew many trades, but he is most well know to us as a water carrier. He worked hard, and managed to make a decent living, as he had four steady customers, who were well-to-do merchants and paid him above the average rate for his services.

Once, the Baal ShemTov, before he had revealed himself to he world, arrived in Taranow. For all practical purposes he was as he appeared, a simple itinerant, but with a gift for telling stories. He used to congregate with the other laborers and tell them stories from the Talmud and he also related to them how much Hashem was pleased with the sincere prayers and straightforward faith of ordinary Jews.

One day, R' Eliezer Lippa was guiding his wagon with its full barrel of water through the center of town when he spotted his friend and fellow water carrier R' Zalman Dov along with some other men, gathered around a ragged itinerant (the Baal ShemTov) and listening intently with heads inclined to catch his every word.

R' Eliezer Lippa, his interest sparked, went over to join the circle of listeners. The Baal ShemTov was telling the story of a wealthy man who lived in the days when the Holy Temple in Jerusalem still stood.

"The wealthy man was taking a fattened ox to the Temple for a sacrifice. It was a massive beast, and when it decided, for reasons of its own, to stop still in its tracks, nobody was able to convince it to walk further towards their destination. No amount of pushing and whipping could make that animal budge"

"A poor man, who was on his way home was watching the scene. In his hand was a bunch of freshly pulled up carrots, with the green stalks still attached to the bright orange roots. Wanting to be of help to the hapless ox owner, he held to carrots to the muzzle of the ox and when it began to nibble, he pulled them away and thereby led to animal to their destination at the Holy Temple."

"That night the owner of the ox had a dream. In his dream he heard a voice which called out, 'The sacrifice of the poor man, who gave up the carrots which he was bringing to his impoverished family, was a more desirable sacrifice than your fattened ox.'"

"The wealthy man brought a large fattened ox for a burnt offering. He was so joyful at being able to bring such an animal that he also brought a sheep for a peace offering an made a huge feast for him family and friends. He also distributing the proper gifts from his sacrifices to the priests. His joy was so intense that he held back nothing."

"The poor man on the other hand, in his poverty had only a few carrots to bring home for his family. What were his carrots compared to the fatted animal of the wealthy man?"

"Nevertheless", said the Baal ShemTov, "Hashem desires the heart. Any Mitzvoh a person may do, whether great or small, simple or difficult, is judged by how it is performed. A Mitzvoh done for Hashem's sake, with great simchah and purity of heart, is very precious to the Creator. Hashem cries out to the angels, 'Look at the mitzvoh my son/daughter has done!' Hashem, from his place in the heavens saw that although the wealthy man had offered much, the poor man had offered much more."

R' Eliezer Lippa's mind knew no rest. How he longed to be able to do a mitzvoh like the poor man in the story; with pure intention and a joyful overflowing heart. The weeks passed and still R' Eliezer Lippa knew no peace for the desire to be able to do such a mitzvah tortured his heart.

One day, as R' Eliezer Lippa was delivering water to one of his wealthy customers, he had an idea, an idea so perfect, so that his whole being became flushed with a great sense of pleasure and relief. R' Eliezer Lippa's four wealthy customers provided him with half of his livelihood since they paid him far more than the going rate for a barrel of water. On the other hand, his friend R' Zalman Dov supplied the town's four shuls which paid him half price for their water. "I can switch four of my customers for four of his", thought R' Eliezer Lippa. "Four wealthy homes for four synagogues." He was anxious to serve Hashem by providing the water for that the congregants would wash their hands with. Certainly the mitzvoh was of more value than the profits he would give up. He went home and told his wife about the story of the Baal ShemTov, and how doing a mitzvoh with joy is like bringing a sacrifice in the Holy Temple even though it no longer stands. His wife readily agreed to the idea, as did R Zalman Dov who sorely nethe extra income. The deal was stuck and the transfer of customers was made. No one but R' Eliezer Lippa and his wife knew what had happened and they were overjoyed at the prospects for their new "business". There were days when even R' Eliezer Lippa's wife went to the river to participate in the mitzvoh of "drawing the water for the synagogues".

The whole while they would concentrate on the mitzvoh of preparing the water for the congregants to wash their hands with before prayers, and their joy was boundless. For they understood that Hashem desires the heart.

According to some, the story continues. In the merit of the mitzvoh which R' Eliezer Lippa and his wife performed, they were blessed with children, for she had formerly been barren. Those children grew to be luminaries who lit up the Jewish world and inspired tens of thousand to return to Hashem in Teshuva and to serve Him with joy.

Those two sons were R' Elimelech of Lizhensk and R' Zusia of Anipoli, two of the principal students of the Baal Shem Tov's successor, the Maggid of Mezeritch.


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